Review by Ian Keogh
There had been Terminator comics before Dark Horse acquired the licence in 1990, but for the most part they weren’t very good, Alex Ross’ first comics work on The Burning Earth the only story of note. Dark Horse had already enjoyed success with Aliens and Predator comics, applying the simple virtue of considering them something worth publishing well, at a time when that wasn’t the industry norm. The same principles applied to their opening Terminator story. It stuck closely to what was introduced in the first Terminator film, but instead of a Terminator returning to the past to murder John Connor’s mother, it’s six troopers sent to Los Angeles in 1990. They intend to kill Doctor Hollister, originator of the Skynet computer system that would take over the world in the 2020s and develop the Terminators.
John Arcudi’s plot still reads well enough, if not straying far from the template of the original Terminator film, While the troopers set about working their way closer to Hollister, four Terminators follow them back to 1990. As this was produced before any sequel films, they’re variations on the Arnold Schwarzenegger robot, big, brutal and almost unstoppable, and it’s not too long before any pretence of stealth is forgotten, leaving two ultra-violent parties fighting for the future across Los Angeles.
Arcudi ensures there’s a cinematic quality to the plot, featuring big action spectacles, assaults and explosions, but still manages to include surprises. Chris Warner loved every minute of drawing the story, maximising the fun and terror, and while some of his fashions now look clunky, particularly lead trooper Mary, he compensates with some classic cars and great peeled back Terminators.
At the time Arcudi was relatively unknown, yet in addition to a tight plot and good action scenes there are the small touches displaying the consideration of a thoughtful writer. One of the slower scenes has the troopers in an abandoned house, one explaining why he feeds the stray dogs. They have a later purpose, but Arcudi’s reasoning is neat. Cast members who survived this outing are seen again in Secondary Objectives.
Better Terminator material would follow from Dark Horse, but as an opening effort this improved on all previous Terminator comics. The original graphic novel presentation was just as The Terminator, but it’s been reissued several times over the years, subsequently titled Tempest, and is now more readily available either in the first Terminator Omnibus or in the oversized hardcover also featuring Dark Horse’s next Terminator outing. That’s worth considering despite the price as it features a toning down of the colour. What Chris Chalanor produced in 1990 was fine for the serialised comics, but has an unnatural vibrancy in this collected edition, transferred to the Omnibus.